Tag Archives: Mithun Chakraborty

Movie Review: Hawaizaada (2015)

Hawaizaada3 Stars (out of 4)

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Director Vibhu Puri makes a promising debut with Hawaizaada (“Free Flying”, according to the English subtitles), a historical fantasy about an Indian inventor who built an airplane eight years before the Wright brothers.

Legend has it that, in 1895, an unmanned aircraft built by Shivkar Bapuji Talpade flew for several minutes, though scant evidence exists to prove the story. A note at the start of Hawaizaada clarifies that the film is not biographical, but merely inspired by Talpade.

The truth of the legend isn’t as important to Hawaizaada as what it represents: hope. England ruled India during Talpade’s lifetime, a fact that the movie suggests as a possible explanation for why so little information remains regarding his experiments. If the world learned that an Indian independently built a flying machine, the British could have no longer justified their occupation by claiming that Indians were uneducated primitives in need of their civilizing oversight.

Ayushmann Khurrana plays “Shivy” Talpade, the clever but aimless son of a well-to-do Mumbai family. When his father throws him out of the house, Shivy moves in with Shastry (Mithun Chakraborty), an eccentric inventor who looks like a bespectacled Mark Twain. Shastry makes Shivy his apprentice, and they start building an airplane.

Shastry’s home is a wonder. He lives aboard a beached ship, cluttered with Rube Goldberg machines and models of his various inventions. The models — and the plane he and Shivy eventually build — have a cool steampunk aesthetic. There are dozens of birdcages, housing the pigeons whose flight patterns he studies.

The houseboat is but one amazing set in a great-looking film. Every location is full of detail, whether it’s a bedroom full of mirrors or a simple village street. Puri — who served as an assistant director on Saawariya and The Blue Umbrella, two visually sumptuous films — stamps his vision on every scene, right down to the richly colored costumes.

In addition to Shivy’s disapproving father and some suspicious British officers, the other wrinkle in his life is Sitara (Pallavi Sharda), a dancing girl with whom Shivy has fallen in love. She’s realistic about the infeasibility of their relationship, given their difference in social standing. But Shivy is both a romantic and a reformer, ever hopeful that love can conquer all.

Khurrana and Sharda make a likeable pair, with her playing the film’s most grounded character. Some of the acting is occasionally hammy, with Chakraborty the main offender.

A number of helpful characters fill out the story, including Shivy’s nephew/sidekick, Narayan (the adorable Naman Jain), and his old band leader, Khan (Jameel Khan).

Some of Shivy’s most ardent cheerleaders are women. Not only does he have Sitara in his corner, but also his sister-in-law and the wife of a local lord. The women know that Shivy’s success would strike a blow against both the British and the wealthy Indian men aligned with them. A new era of change — heralded by an airplane’s flight — could mean more opportunities for women.

Hawaizaada has a packed soundtrack, with some great songs. “Dil-e-Nadaan,” sung by Khurrana, is a standout. But a few songs feel like filler, stretching out a movie that’s already longer than it needs to be.

International audience members may find one plot thread confusing. Shivy and Shastry take some of their clues on airplane design from the Vedas, and they occasionally quote scripture that isn’t translated in the English subtitles. It’s not vital in order to follow the plot, but one does feel a bit left out.

Go watch Hawaizaada. Not only is it an uplifting story, but it’s a chance to experience the work an emerging director with a distinct aesthetic point of view. I want to see what Vibhu Puri does next.

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Movie Review: Kaanchi (2014)

Kaanchi_poster1 Star (out of 4)

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Kaanchi: The Unbreakable fancies itself an inspiring story of a simple country gal taking on the powers of corruption. In reality, Kaanchi is a tale of personal revenge, and a really boring one at that.

The story begins with an uninformative framing device that has no narrative payoff until over an hour into the film. A Mumbai police officer, Bagula (Chandan Roy Sanyal), sits handcuffed in an interrogation room, trying to explain his role in the tumultuous events sparked by a woman who’s gone missing. Bagula says that the woman is his childhood friend, Kaanchi (Mishti).

Kaanchi (Mishti) is the female version of the big-man-on-campus Bollywood hero whom everyone seems to love even though he’s an immature, annoying asshole. Kaanchi is every bit the asshole — temperamental, jealous, and vain — yet she’s the favorite daughter of her mountain village, Kochampa.

While Kaanchi trades verbal barbs with her boyfriend, Binda (Kartik Tiwari), members of the wealthy Kakda family arrive in town, intending to force out the villagers in order to build a luxury resort. This troubles Binda, but Kaanchi could give two shits. She’s too busy worrying about other girls flirting with Binda.

Kaanchi befriends Sushant — heir to the Kakda fortune — and he falls in love with her. This sets off a chain of events that results in Kaanchi fleeing the village in a rage, vowing revenge. Thus ends the first hour of a two-and-a-half-hour-long movie.

Kaanchi’s reunion with Bagula in a Mumbai dance bar is unintentionally hilarious. Scantily clad ladies sing, “You’re sexy. You’re like a taxi,” to which Bagula responds, “I’m a carefree big boy.”

Only Rishi Kapoor — who plays one of the villainous Kakda brothers — gets a better character introduction: strumming a guitar on a round bed while a pair of busty women in lingerie chomp on Ritter Sport chocolate bars.

There are nine or ten pointless musical numbers that serve only to waste at least forty minutes of runtime in an already overly-long film.

Among the dance numbers, the highlight is “Thumka,” but for the wrong reasons. It features the least flattering outfits I’ve ever seen on white backup dancers. Each dancer wears a monokini, black elbow gloves, gladiator sandals, a bobbed wig, and black, control-top pantyhose. A few of the dancers look like they’re wearing athletic cups inside their hose. Check out these sartorial abominations:

The acting throughout is pretty abysmal. Kapoor’s performance is hammy and out-of-place. Mithun Chakraborthy — who plays the other Kakda brother — has cotton balls stuffed in his cheeks for no apparent reason.

Misthi doesn’t do herself many favors in her debut performance. She moves as though she’s wearing a back brace, and her high-pitched shrieking sounds insane, rather than powerful.

Throughout the incredibly dull second half of the film, side characters refer to Kaanchi as a representative of young India, fed up with politics as usual and tired of a corrupt system. However, Kaanchi doesn’t see herself that way. She never mentions the threat the Kakda family poses to her village, nor does she mention the rigged system that benefits such wealthy families.

Had Kaanchi decided to fight for Kochampa or on behalf of the underclass, that would’ve constituted character development. But Kaanchi doesn’t develop at all throughout the film. She begins and remains a temperamental young woman who’s used to getting her way. After the interval, she just redirects her temper.

This isn’t a political or inspirational movie, no matter how badly writer-director-producer Subhash Ghai would like to frame it as such. Kaanchi is a messy, dull revenge flick, and that’s all.

Links

  • Kaanchi: The Unbreakable at Wikipedia
  • Kaanchi: The Unbreakable at IMDb

Movie Review: Gunda (1998)

GundaEntertainment Factor: 4 Stars (out of 4)
Quality: 0 Stars

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Gunda was brought to my attention by a reader named Harry in the comments about my review of Boom, a movie I considered to be so bad that it’s actually good. Turns out Boom has nothing on Gunda: the ultimate So Bad, It’s Good movie.

Director Kanti Shah’s Gunda is a B-movie with blockbuster aspirations. By failing to allocate the obviously modest budget for optimal use, the quality of every aspect of the movie suffers. As a result, not a single component of the film bears even a hint of competence. And that’s what makes it so great.

To call Gunda a revenge movie is to underplay the role revenge plays in the story. It’s the whole plot! Someone kills a member of someone else’s family or entourage, which precipitates a retaliatory murder, which precipitates another retaliatory murder, and so on. That’s it. That’s all the story is about.

The presumptive lead character, Shankar (Mithun Chakraborty), doesn’t appear until about twenty minutes into the two-hour-long movie. By that point, there have already been five murders committed at the hands of warring dons Bulla (Mukesh Rishi) and Lambuatta (Ishrat Ali). Also by that point, Lambuatta and the man who hired him to kill Bulla are dead, making their inclusion in the movie totally unnecessary.

Unnecessary, but not worthless. Lambuatta is my favorite character in the film. He repeatedly shouts Bulla’s name while hanging out on an airport tarmac. Why an airport tarmac? Who knows?

Lambuatta provokes his own death when he rapes and murders Bulla’s sister. More accurately, Lambuatta rips open her shirt in public, killing her. In Gunda, rape — or the PG-rated, fully clothed version presented — is always fatal to the woman. Always.

Shankar enters the story when he stops one of Bulla’s goons from fleeing the police after committing a murder, prompting Bulla to “fix a date” for Shankar’s death. But first, Shankar and Bulla have to kill off everyone else associated with the other party.

Bulla merits a place in the American cultural lexicon as one of the greatest villains of all time. He pronounces every line of dialogue with an extended enunciation of the last syllable. He and his crew are prone to speaking in couplets that make no sense when translated from Hindi to English. Take Bulla’s catchphrase, for example:

“My name is Bulla, and I always keep it open.”

I read somewhere online that Bulla may be indicating that he’s not wearing underwear, but who the hell knows? Does it even matter? It starts to sound pretty awesome after the thirtieth time he says it.

The majority of Bulla’s scenes are shot with him and his femmy brother, Chutiya (Shakti Kapoor), sitting two-feet from the camera in the living room of their mansion. There are only a handful of sets in the whole movie, most notably Bulla’s living room, the airport tarmac, a quarry, and a dock. All of them are apparently located right next to one another.

The rest of the scenes are shot in public places, usually in parks or in the middle of busy streets. A fun drinking game would be to take a drink every time a bus tries to plow its way through the middle of a shot or is forced to skirt around a huge crowd of spectators.

Shoehorned in between all the revenge killings is a romance of truly awkward proportions between Shankar and Ganga (Verna Raj), who navigates the world with a pair of basketballs stuffed in her bra. Shankar and Ganga engage in several stiff, goofy dance numbers in which the then 51-year-old Chakraborty appears to be actively trying not to dance.

Scenes go on far too long, especially the dance numbers. Much of the film can be fast-forwarded through, but I found something charming in the relentless dullness of many of the scenes.

Many of the events in the second half of the film are beyond ridiculous, and it would be a shame to spoil them for those new to Gunda. The less prepared one is for this movie, the better. I will point out that the climactic battle in Gunda — which, again, takes a really, really, really long time — is one of the best, wackiest things I have ever seen. Ever.

And then the movie just ends. It’s brilliant.

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Movie Review: Boss (2013)

Boss2 Stars (out of 4)

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Boss has some great individual elements that could make up either a great action comedy or a serious revenge thriller, but combining them together in the same movie doesn’t work.

The tone of the film changes without a moment’s notice, and it’s too much to ask the audience to follow along. One minute, we’re expected to be horrified by violence; the next minute, we’re supposed to laugh at it. Lighthearted scenes are followed by a brother threatening to slap his sister unless she locks herself in her room until he says she can come out. Boss never settles on what kind of movie it is.

The story structure is also odd. The film begins with a flashback to a teenage boy saving the life of the mafia don Big Boss (Danny Denzongpa). The don takes the boy under his wing, christening him Boss. Since this is obviously Akshay Kumar’s character as a teen, we expect to then see the man Boss has grown into.

Instead, the story switches to Boss’s father, Satyakant (Mithun Chakraborty), fifteen years later, still lamenting that his eldest son (known to him as Surya) is a criminal. Satyakant sends his younger son, Shiv (Shiv Pandit), to Delhi where the young man gets into trouble defending his lady-love, Ankita (Aditi Rao Hydari), from a creepy politician’s son, Vishal (Aakash Dabhade). The lovers star in a romantic music video on a yacht before Ankita’s homicidal cop brother, Ayushman (Ronit Roy), arrests Shiv.

Finally, thirty minutes into the movie, Satyakant vows to swallow his pride and ask Surya/Boss to save Shiv. When Boss is introduced, on-screen titles read: “Akshay Kumar in and as Boss.” After a funny, five-minute-long fight scene, the opening credits roll. The movie is already a quarter of the way over!

As a comedy, Boss is pretty entertaining. There are some clever scenes, such as Boss trying to surreptitiously beat up some assassins without his father noticing. There’s a humorous recurring bit involving Boss’ “portable rocking chair,” created when his henchman form a human-pyramid-style throne and sway in unison.

As a revenge thriller, Boss is also effective. Chakraborty is strong as the patriarch who chooses his principles over his troubled son. For my money, Roy is the scariest villain in Bollywood. The cold expression in his eyes after Ayushman tosses Satyakant down a flight of stairs is chilling. And nothing beats his method for quieting a group of rowdy grade schoolers: give them a gun and urge them to play Russian roulette.

But these elements belong in different movies. There’s no way to successfully integrate them. Emotional scenes are interrupted by comic relief characters, and again, it’s hard to discern how director Anthony D’Souza expects the audience to feel about violence. It’s funny when Boss breaks a coconut on someone’s head, but not so funny when he impales a sawblade in someone’s chest.

Boss — which is all about relationships between men — portrays women unfavorably. The visual that accompanies Shiv praising Ankita’s eyes, voice, and “mind-blowing attitude” is Aditi Rao Hydari emerging from a pool wearing a bikini. Party scenes feature white women in skimpy outfits getting drunk, though item girl Sonakshi Sinha gets to dance in a modest cocktail dress and abstain from alcohol.

For good measure, Ayushman uses his girlfriend to frame Shiv for rape. Frame him for any other crime, but not rape. Not in a movie that is primarily a comedy.

There’s a lot to like in Boss, enough so that it’s never boring. It just should’ve been two separate movies.

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Movie Review: Khiladi 786 (2012)

Khiladi_786_poster2 Stars (out of 4)

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There’s a lot to like in Khiladi 786. The well-organized plot allows for plenty of humorous turns, and Akshay Kumar gives a charming performance. Yet needless racism keeps me from recommending Khiladi 786.

During a throwaway number about forty minutes into the film, Kumar’s character dances, surrounded by a troupe of male Indian dancers wearing blackface makeup and Afro wigs, while female Anglo dancers writhe around wearing bikinis.

Kumar apparently doesn’t find blackface offensive, since he donned it himself in Kambakkht Ishq. If he did, he surely could’ve had the number changed since his wife, Twinkle Khanna, is one of the film’s producers. Since Kumar and Khanna already consider blackface acceptable, arguing with them over the obvious sexual objectification of Anglo women seems pointless.

The offensive dance number negatively affected my perception of an otherwise enjoyable movie. Kumar plays Bahattar Singh, a crook with superhuman speed and strength. Bahattar, his father, and his uncle work with the local police to stop smugglers on Punjabi highways. The work is dangerous and illegal, and the family splits the proceeds from their warrantless searches with the police.

Because seemingly everyone in the state of Punjab knows that Bahattar is thief, he can’t find a single local woman willing to marry him. This follows the family tradition of marrying foreigners. Bahattar’s mother is Canadian, his grandmother is African, and his aunt is Chinese.

(I also had a problem with the musical cues that accompany the introduction of each of the foreign women. The Chinese aunt appears to an East-Asian string-instrument theme, the African grandmother gets drums and chanting, and the white Canadian mother gets jazz saxophone. We get it. They aren’t ethnic Indians. That’s obvious from looking at them, though I’m not quite sure how jazz represents Canada. I would’ve gone with prog rock.)

Bahattar’s nuptial troubles present the perfect opportunity for marriage arranger Mansukh (Himesh Reshammiya), who’s recently been fired from the family wedding firm. He tries to fix up Bahattar with Indu (Asin Thottumkal), the reckless younger sister of a famous Mumbai don, TT (Mithun Chakraborty).

Indu knows that a woman from a family of criminals will only be accepted as a bride by another criminal, like her boyfriend, Azad (Rahul Singh). TT insists on marrying his sister into a good family, and the Singhs want the same for Bahattar, so Mansukh convinces the men of both families to masquerade as police officers.

Despite the fact that Khiladi 786 is an Akshay Kumar vehicle, the most important character is Mansukh. He’s desperate for Bahattar and Indu to get married in order to prove to his own father that he’s not a screw-up. To make that happen, he has to juggle the lies he’s told and encouraged others to tell. Mansukh’s uncle, Jeevan (Sanjai Mishra), hinders the process as much as he helps and provides comic relief.

Reshammiya plays Mansukh as animated, but not over the top. He needs to be the regular guy among a crowd of nutty criminals. Also, Reshammiya knows who the real star of the movie is.

Kumar plays much the same character as he always does: a sweet guy who’s tough when he needs to be. Bahattar notes: “Punjabis don’t come or go quietly,” which gives Kumar the freedom to act with extra exuberance. Bahattar’s superhuman speed is played to good comic effect, as he flattens bad guys in the blink of an eye.

The rest of the supporting cast is generally fine. Asin doesn’t have much to do, but Mithun Chakraborty gets to bash some heads in the final fight scene. There are a couple of side plots that come to nothing, involving characters like TT’s maid and an inspector played by Johnny Lever.

Of all the supporting characters, Azad is the funniest. Even though his name means “freedom,” he spends most of the film on the brink of being released from jail, only to screw it up and get himself thrown back into the pokey.

If it weren’t for one dumb dance number, Khiladi 786 would be a fun, harmless movie. There are just certain offenses that can’t be overlooked.

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Movie Review: Housefull 2 (2012)

1.5 Stars (out of 4)

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When is a sequel not a sequel? Housefull 2 is a strange, boring spectacle that has nothing to do with 2010’s Housefull.

Okay, not precisely nothing. Both are wacky comedies about mistaken identities and concealing romantic relationships from one’s parents. Both starred Akshay Kumar and Ritesh Deshmukh. But Kumar and Deshmukh don’t play the same characters as they did in the first movie.

In Housefull, Deshmukh played a card dealer named Bob while Kumar played an unlucky doofus named Aarush. In Housefull 2, Deshmukh plays millionaire’s son Jolly, while Kumar plays a sleaze named Sunny. Sunny then pretends to be Jolly. Confused, yet?

Jacqueline Fernandez and Malaika Arora Khan were both item girls in Housefull and also return as different characters in Housefull 2. Fernandez plays Bobby (not Bob, Deshmukh’s original character), and Khan plays a different item girl.

Here’s where things get weird. Boman Irani plays a character named Batuk Patel in both movies, but it’s not the same Batuk Patel! In Housefull 2, Batuk seeks to marry off his only daughter, Parul (Shazahn Padamsee) to the son of his best friend, JD (Mithun Chakraborty). In the original Housefull, Batuk’s daughter is Hetal (played by Lara Dutta), which is incidentally the name of Batuk’s deceased wife in Housefull 2.

The only character and actor to make the transition from one movie to the next intact is Chunky Pandey’s funny half-Indian, half-Italian schmoozer, Aakhri Pasta.

As if all this half-baked crossover isn’t bad enough, the plot of Housefull 2 is thin and stupid. Two feuding half-brothers, Daboo (Randhir Kapoor) and Chintu (Rishi Kapoor), want to secure the richest husband in England for their respective daughters, Bobby and Henna (Asin Thottumkal). When Chintu insultingly rejects the family of one possible groom, Jai (Shreyas Talpade), the young man vows to get revenge by making sure Henna is dumped at the altar.

Jai is pals with Jolly, England’s most desirable bachelor. They hire their college friend, Max (John Abraham), to pose as Jolly and trick Chintu and Henna. Max accidentally gets engaged to Bobby, so Jai and Jolly call Sunny to trick Chintu. Max and Sunny hate each other, but Daboo and Chintu live in adjoining townhouses, and — OH, NO! — what if they see each other?!

This covers the first forty-five minutes of the plot. Things only get stupider and more annoying until the end of Housefull 2‘s unbearable 155 minute runtime.

In addition to the sloppy story construction, there are continuity errors throughout. Henna has a pet “crocodile” that is really an alligator. Sunny falls asleep in a raft out at sea, and when he wakes up in the raft the next morning after it washes ashore, there’s already sand on his shoes. Henna puts her finger to her ear to indicate that she’s talking on a Bluetooth headset, but she’s not actually wearing one.

All these mistakes — combined with the crap story– point to the fact that Housefull 2 is just a cash grab designed to trick people who enjoyed Housefull (myself included). A cast full of stars can’t save something this inept and nonsensical.

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Movie Review: Veer (2010)

1 Star (out of 4)

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Veer‘s historical setting is just window dressing for a typical Salman Khan film.

The movie’s action begins in 1862 in Rajputana (now Rajasthan), before the birth of the title character. The king of Madhavgarh aligns with the occupying British army, betraying the Pindari people and driving them from their homeland. The Pindari split up into smaller bands, biding their time until they can take their revenge on the king and the British.

Veer (Khan), son of one of the Pindari chiefs, grows up indoctrinated with his people’s desire for revenge. As young men, he and his younger brother, Punya (Sohail Khan), raid British trains for treasure. But with victory elusive, Chief Prithvi (Mithun Chakraborty) sends his sons to England to study British military tactics in university.

In England, Veer falls in love with an Indian princess, Yashodhara (Zarine Khan, no relation to Salman or Sohail). The brothers run into trouble with some of the wealthy Indian students at the university and must flee home, but not before they’ve learned valuable information that will finally help the Pindaris avenge their betrayal.

Veer shares much in common with other characters Salman Khan has played recently. He yells a lot, is irresistable to women and possesses superhuman strength. He can grab the blade of a sword midswing without getting his fingers lopped off, and the men he punches fly ten feet into the air. All of Khan’s recent characters are a grade school boy’s fantasy of idealized manhood.

The film’s immaturity increases with the presence of Sohail Khan, Salman’s younger brother, cast in what was surely an act of fraternal charity. Sohail’s Punya is the film’s comic relief, which feels inappropriate in a historical epic. But Punya muddles along the streets of Victorian England nonetheless, clumsily falling on pretty girls to the tune of “boing” sound effects.

The sound effects are just one example of the many ways Veer resists becoming the inspiring patriotic tale it should be. Instead of aiming for period authenticity in its costuming (at least during the scenes in England), the filmmakers used cheap costumes from the local Halloween store.  Synthetic fabrics abound, Yashodhara wears hot pink nail polish and one of the English actresses has a visible tattoo on the back of her neck.

Those bits of sloppy execution are merely laughable, but a number of other errors hamper understanding. English subtitles in white text are often set against white backgrounds, and the subtitles disappear entirely at a few critical moments. It’s not clear in exactly which year the bulk of the action takes place, nor is it clear just how old Veer is. He’s likely in his early twenties, or about twenty years younger than Salman Khan’s real age of 44.

There’s a lack of attention to detail throughout Veer, as though audiences won’t care because it’s a “Salman Khan” film. If there’s one thing I hate as an audience member, it’s being taken for granted. Khan himself should’ve demanded better from a movie that he co-wrote.

Runtime: 2 hrs. 40 min.